Originally posted on NFL News & Rumors  |  Last updated 3/22/12

Signing running back Matt Forte to a long term contract has bee one of the Bears priorities this off-season, and while they’ve been unsuccessful thus far in that endeavor, Chicago found a way to increase their leverage over Forte this morning, reportedly agreeing to a four year, $14 million contract with free agent runner Michael Bush (Raiders).

Bush is widely seen as being capable of stepping up into a starting role, having handled the duties admirably last year in Oakland when Darren McFadden went down to injury, and should give the Bears a nice one-two punch once they patch things up with Forte.

Chicago used their franchise tag on Forte earlier in the off-season and will continue to negotiate with him throughout the rest of the spring and summer to get him locked up long term.

The move to sign Bush likely spells the end of Marion Barber’s time in the Windy City, as he struggled down the stretch and no longer has the ability to be the effective short yardage runner the Bears envisioned when they signed him last year. Releasing him would save Chicago $1.7 million against the salary cap.

Bush, 26, has carried the ball 632 times for 2,642 yards and 21 touchdowns over the four seasons he’s spent in the league.

©2012 NFL News & Rumors. All Rights Reserved.

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